|Once a small fishing town along the Makran Coast is now set to become a mega seaport which will fulfill the requirement of three geographically important regions, The entire subcontinent, Wes China, central Asia States, and Afghanistan.
The Gwadar Project, recently inaugurated by President Musharraf, is the fourth mega project initiated by the present regime for the uplift of the people of Balochistan-Pakistan's strategically important, yet in socio-economic terms, most neglected province. The other three important projects are Mirani Dam, revival of Saindak Project and Coastal Highway.
Located at the Arabian Sea Coast with vast, arid and extremely backward Mekran Division of Balochistan as hinterland, Gwadar deep sea port, being built with Chinese co-operation, will not only enhance Pakistan's strategic importance in Southwest Asian region, it will usher in a new era of socio-economic development in Balochistan because, as President Pervez Musharraf has rightly pointed out, this area, after the construction of Gwadar Port, will become hub of economic and trade activities in the whole region . The people of Balochistan have for long been in need of such development projects, but unfortunately, almost every past regime had paid only lip service to their demands, doing nothing practically . The need for an alternate deep-sea port has since long been recognised, both from strategic view-point and economic perspectives. Gwadar was the best choice because it offered ideal conditions for building a deep-sea port and secondly, it is situated 470 km away from Karachi, making it less vulnerable to the Indian naval blockade, which Pakistan faced during the 1971 War . Despite the fact that Karachi was increasingly becoming clogged due to heavy cargo, the work on Gwadar suffered from foot-dragging and official apathy. When the military government assumed power, it gave the go ahead and initiated negotiations with China to speed up work on the Gwadar Project. For this purpose, Pakistan's Finance Minister, Mr. Shaukat Aziz visited Beijing in August last year where he signed an agreement with Chinese leaders on the construction of Gwadar deep-sea port and coastal highways. Under the agreement, the Chinese will provide $ 200 million to Pakistan for the construction of the first phase of the project. The total cost would be $ 250 million and the work is proposed to be completed in three years. President Musharraf performed the groundbreaking ceremony of Mekran Coastal Highway, Phase II, Turbat-Mand Road and Mirani Dam on August 17 last year in Gwadar. Pakistan's Minister for Communication, who declared that the area would be made a Free-Trade Zone for exports to the Gulf region, also accompanied the President
The construction of a deep-sea port at Gwadar is just one component of the Greater Gwadar Plan . Under this Plan, which will be carried out by Gwadar Development Authority, in addition to Gwadar port, a network of roads, connecting Gwadar with Karachi, Pasni , Ormara and Turbat will be constructed in four phases. The Coastal Highway linking Karachi with Gwadar (675 km) is being built simultaneously with the port. Other highways, from Pasni to Gwadar (135km), Ormara-Gwadar (275km) and Gwadar-Turbat (188 km) will be built in Phase II of the project. The first two phases of the project, costing about Rs. 3 billion, will be completed in two to three years. In phase III, Pasni will be connected with Ormara and in the fourth phase, Pasni will be connected to Gupt at the Iranian border. This network of roads will finally be connected with China through the Indus Highway. Under an agreement, Pakistan, China, Kazakhistan, Kyrgizstan and Uzbekistan are already committed to developing extensive railroad links from Central Asia and the Chinese province of Sinkiang to the Arabian Sea Coast. The completion of this communication network will not only facilitate the movement of goods from China and Central Asian Republics to the countries of the Persian Gulf, Middle East, East Africa, the Indian Ocean and beyond through Gwadar, the countries of these regions will also have an easy and short route for access to Central Asia for trade and economic co-operation purposes. In this scenario, Gwadar port emerges as a place of great strategic value, giving tremendous boost to Pakistan's importance in the whole region, extending from the Persian Gulf through the Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia and the Far East.
FROM PAKISTAN'S PERSPECTIVE, THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE GWADAR PORT WILL STRENGTHEN ITS ECONOMY AND DEFENCE. GWADAR IS SITUATED AT A DISTANCE OF 470 KM WESTWARD FROM KARACHI ON THE ARABIAN SEA COAST, WHICH MAKES IT A BIT DIFFICULT FOR THE INDIAN NAVY TO ACHIEVE A NAVAL BLOCKADE OF PAKISTAN. The project is being built with Chinese help and co-operation, which will, as President Musharraf said, further strengthen Pak-China friendship . Although Pakistan, during the last about four decades, has provided an opening to China on